Is Apple Killing the Mac?

By far, Apple’s great success has been its mobile devices: the iPhone, the iPod, and the iPad.

The popularity and tremendous sales of these devices have overshadowed the company’s legacy Mac platform in recent years.

That’s lead a lot of people to wonder if Apple is phasing out the Mac OS in favour of the iOS.

It’s an interesting question, and one that deserves consideration.

Is Apple killing the Mac?

One leading indicator of Apple’s intentions can be found in its departure from the annual MacWorld conference.

It was a huge event that, to Mac fanboys, was bigger than Christmas (which it occurred just after).

Many of CEO Steve Jobs’ keynotes from past MacWorlds are legendary.

It’s at MacWorld, for example, that Jobs introduced the world to the iMac (in 1998), and the iPhone (in 2007), two products that redefined industries.

Yet Apple quit MacWorld – and pretty much every other trade show – in 2009.

Why would Apple decline attendance at the world’s biggest Mac party if the company wasn’t planning to phase out the Mac?

Then there’s the operating system – OS X – that runs on every Mac. OS X is the equivalent of Windows on a PC.

After it was introduced in 1999, major releases of Apple’s landmark operating system came at a breakneck pace, every 12 months.

It was quite remarkable how quickly significant new versions of Mac OS X were released.

Lately though, Apple’s grown lackadaisical with their OS X schedule. Major new releases sort of slip out every two years or so. Major new features are rare.

Clearly Apple has grown disinterested in the Mac, putting less energy into it, and dedicating fewer resources.

Right?

Then there are the Macs themselves.

Compared to the revolutionary design of the Bondi Blue iMac in 1999 (remember how everyone immediately trashed its design when it first appeared, then went on to desperately emulate it?) Macs in the last few years have settled into a relatively svelte and unchanging stream of aluminum wedges and cartons.

Come on, Apple, is aluminum the new beige?

Surely the relatively stagnant state of the Mac’s industrial design represents a lack of interest in the platform from Apple?

Not.

The truth is, the Mac has matured.

As Microsoft muddles its way from one flawed operating system to another (why did they ever kill the much-loved XP?) Apple has comfortably settled into a state of stability, quality, and dependability with the Mac OS X.

The Mac OS is all grown up: wise and world-wary.

This is also true of Apple’s Mac hardware.

The chic-conservative look of Apple’s unibody aluminum MacBooks and iMacs begets an air of confident sophistication and elegance.

The Mac doesn’t have to work hard to be cool with crazy colours and plastics anymore.

The Mac now defines cool, effortlessly.

In other words, Apple has hit its stride with the Mac (finally!). The Mac is recognized as the preferred, even pre-eminent computer platform currently available.

With the Mac alone, Apple steadily enjoys record sales, quarter after quarter, even as the PC industry overall declines.

As a result, Apple has grown to become the third-largest computer seller in the world, far ahead of now-lame former competitors like Dell.

Which is where the iOS comes in. The iOS is Apple’s new operating system.

It runs on its mobile devices like the iPod, the iPad, and the iPhone.

The iOS is where the revolution is happening. It’s the headline-grabber, the rebel child, the crazy one.

Apple can take incredible risks with the iOS and lead the charge into an uncharted new computing paradigm precisely because it has a solid, mature business and technical foundation in the Mac.

That the Mac OS evolves and changes at a relatively slower pace and catches less attention is intentional. Apple understands that if they attempt a Vista-esque sea change with the Mac, their customers will lose confidence.

Apple no longer needs the Mac to lead the charge. Now the Mac can step into the background like a parent handing over the reigns of the family business to its child, the iOS.

While it’s likely that the Mac will eventually move into retirement, that isn’t happening right now.

Sure, in the long term, as the iOS evolves, fewer of us will buy Macs.

We simply won’t need the power and flexibility Macs offer in comparison to iOS devices. (Though a lot of people will continue to buy Macs out of sheer machismo, as they do trucks rather than cars.)

I already get away with just an iPad for a lot of my business operations. But I still need a Mac to remain truly productive.

Eventually, the Mac will be put out to pasture. But that time isn’t here.

No, Apple isn’t killing the Mac.

It’s just quietly letting it slip into the background of its product lineup as a sort of respected elder in the world of technology.

The Mac has become a stolid bellwether; a stable, comforting entity in that cacophonous, constant storm of change that is the technology industry.

Yes, the Mac is very much alive.

Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, December 10, 2010.

10 thoughts on “Is Apple Killing the Mac?

  1. Apple is not killing the Mac. Actually, it is advancing the Mac to the next level. Look at the new MacBook Air unit and you will see where the Mac is heading.

    Apple’s departure from MacWorld resulted from two very simple issues:
    1) Apple and IDG have not gotten along for a long time ever since IDG moved MacWorld back to Boston while Apple wanted it to stay in NYC.
    2) Apple doesn’t need MacWorld to get its message out anymore. More people go through Apple Stores in a single day than ever attended MacWorld for the exhibits and announcements.

    I personally loved MacWord, but I can’t justify going to the conference if there are no vendors in the exhibits hall so I can see the new stuff. I can find out about much of what is new on the net, but I still loved the hands-on aspect of seeing new products.

    The Mac is not fading into the background, but I think that Apple has to work harder with it’s business customers to promote and service those customers. The dropping of the XServer is a bad move. Apple desperately needs a rack mounted powerhouse server product. No the Mac mini Server doesn’t count and mounting MacPro system sideways in a rack doesn’t work.

    Lastly, iOS is the future for consumer products and may take the place of Mac OS X in the future. However, I can’t create Apps on an iOS device. I need a system with more power and flexibility that that. Hence, Mac OS X will remain at the operating system for REAL computers from Apple, Inc.

  2. 1. Apple left MacWorld because it did not want to be tied to their schedule and location.

    2. Mac OS has been on an 18-24 month schedule, not 12 month since it started.

    The delay has gotten longer with each release because the OS is maturing. I expect the next release will bring a large number of changes.

    • Hey Michael, thanks for you response. Just to clarify what I was talking about in reference to your point number two, here’s the history of Mac OS X releases:

      10.0 – March 24, 2001
      10.1 – September 25, 2001 (6 months later)
      10.2 – August 24, 2002 (11 months later)
      10.3 – October 24, 2003 (14 months later)
      10.4 – April 29, 2005 (16 months later)
      10.5 – October 26, 2007 (30 months later)
      10.6 – August 28, 2009 (22 months)

      So my point was more that major releases from Apple have slowed in recent years. I averaged early releases (10.0 through 10.4) out to a year and then averaged more recent versions (10.5 and 10.6) out to two years. As you can see in the schedule above, there’s a pretty marked change in frequency of releases.

      Cheers!

  3. I agree with your conclusion.

    Rather than an indication of the Mac’s decline, Apple’s abandonment of MacWorld shows that the Mac is here to stay. Apple no longer needs MacWorld. It can introduce products on their own schedule and get press coverage at the snap of its fingers. People can see Mac products 365 days a year, well presented in any of the hundreds of local Apple retail stores. There are numerous books and websites devoted to the Mac. A user conference is no longer needed.

    The success of Apple’s touch-based iOS consumer devices doesn’t imply that Apple has lost interest in the Mac. Currently, sales of Macintosh computers are also on the rise. People fed up after years of Microsoft Windows, and delighted with their iOS devices, are coming to realize that Apple products are actually worth the expense. They are willing to give Apple a try and are switching to the Mac in larger numbers than ever. Apple would be crazy to quit the Mac while they are on an upward trend in sales and marketshare.

    Apple owns something like 90% of the consumer market for computer costing $1000 and up. As long as there is a market for high quality computers with physical keyboards (which I suspect will be a long time) Apple will continue to sell Macs.

    The large multi-touch trackpads, fantastic new MacBook Air’s, and upcoming Mac app store show that Apple is still leading the way in innovation in “conventional” computers.

    Really, the conjecture about Apple abandoning the Mac is simply baseless FUD.

    • Apple not only “no longer needs” MacWorld, but it was an expenditure of funds and resources that were better applied to product development. More importantly, in my view, is the fact that MacWorld had nothing whatsoever to do with real world market cycles and was a terrible time to introduce new products. Two things matter about product releases. The product must be ready to release and it should come in time for consumer buying cycles (e.g. back to school & christmas), if possible. MacWorld was simply a distraction and Apple is better off without wasting their time preparing for it.

      Sadly, the X Serve is history. The sales no longer supported its continued production, but the problem arises from Apple’s history of not listening to customers. Apple may be preparing to abandon the EDU and business markets because they have not listened to the needs of the customers and so have not met their needs. We shall see.

  4. Do you have a reference for your claim that Apple outsells Dell?

    I understand your rabid enthusiasm for this manufacturer, but Apple is a distant fourth in U.S. computer sales behind HP, Dell and Acer. Apple does not even have half the market share or sales volume as Dell. Again, this is only U.S. sales, in global sales, which you reference, Apple’s market share isn’t even in the top 5.

    SOURCE

  5. When did it become cool to have single word or single sentence paragraphs? I wore out the scroll wheel on my mouse reading this link bait.

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